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I can’t tell the story of paramedics from the angle from which they see things, but I can tell it from the angle of the person looking up at themthe one lying in the medically-equipped vehicle with lights flashing and siren audible. There are some lessons in life we learn by blindsidewe are thrust into them. That was me that May day in the ambulance. 

I had known about migraines; I had decades of first-hand experience with them. I knew vision could be temporarily taken. I have operated countless days with an invisible hammer continuously beating one side of my head. Some days, my migraine’s choice of invisible tool is a drill with the intended target being an eye. On its especially motivated days, the migraine’s torture tool is an invisible axe that perpetuates the sensation of bleeding from a skull split open.

I have tried to explain to non-migraine sufferers what a migraine feels like; I know it all sounds like a gross exaggeration of a headache, but I don’t speak in hyperbole. The non-alcohol-infused, drunken-like walks holding walls to stay uprightthose are a norm. So is the bandana lookthe one that mirrors JLo’s fashion at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, except my bandana features no rhinestones, and I am not arm-in-arm with Puff Daddy (now Diddy).

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A decade of my life was bookended with a pair of ambulance rides. I could never write that chapter with such strange precisionlife just forcefully took hold of my pen and almost 10 years to the exact date of when I called 9-1-1 for my son, I called it for myself. On the latter blindside, I learned the sinful complexity of migraines. 

The inability to retrieve and speak words, the loss of mobility on one side of the bodyit’s all fair in migraine and aura.

My mama said there would be hard daysthe ones when I’m migraining through motherhood are some of those days. It would be a whole lot easier if I could ride out my migraines at home, but like all the other single mothers I have met, I have to work. And, I don’t want to miss out on motherhoodI fought with everything I had to be in this hood. Migraine or not, I make the school lunches, assistant coach the teams, wash his favorite hoodie on the near-daily.

Thank goodness for baseball hats that assist me in not staying sidelined. I may not have former NBA player Scottie Pippin’s height or basketball skills, but we have migraines in common. He evidently doesn’t like being sidelined either. In game seven of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, Pippin played as he battled a severe migraine. That migraine gained fame in the Bulls loss to the Pistons. I can’t fault Pippin for his uncharacteristic performance in the game, merely not sleeping through migraine days is a genuine accomplishment. 

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We are all somebody’s daughter or sonpossibly someone’s mother or father, sister or brother, husband or wife, neighbor, friend, teammatewe are all somebody to someone. On the May day of my blindside, the sight of the ambulance moving toward me delivered hope. The steadiness, expertise, and humanity of the paramedics sustained me in the chaos of uncertainty. 

Migraines can hit like a hurricane with a range of auras that is remarkably complex. But life is a rollercoasterit has its ups and its downs. In the ups, I pray in gratitude; in the downs, I pray in hope. And when migraining through, I know the greatest source of my strength, which prevents me from being benched, doesn’t come from my baseball hat, sunglasses, or the non-rhinestoned bandana. Stronger than the black cups of coffee are the roots of my faith and the loving prayers spoken to God by a single mother for her son.

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Suzanna Parpos

Suzanna Parpos works in the field of education. She is a former newspaper columnist with compilations of her columns featured in her books: "A Year on Route 30: One Mom's Collection of Essays" and "Awakening the Blank Canvas: A Collection of Essays Continues." Suzanna lives with her son and their dog in Massachusetts. Visit her site: www.suzannaparpos.com.

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